How to realize the promise of digital health:
The Broadband Commission Working Group highlights the importance of a national digital health strategy
Barcelona, 27 February 2017
- The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s Working Group on Digital Health, co-chaired by the Novartis Foundation and Nokia, has launched the report “Digital Health: A call for Government Leadership and Cooperation between ICT and Health.”
- Key recommendations include: the importance of senior government leadership with committed financing, effective governance mechanisms with defined roles, and a national ICT framework to facilitate alignment between the ICT and health care sectors.
The Novartis Foundation and Nokia have joined forces with a number of Broadband Commissioners and partners representing digital and health experts and policy-makers, to produce an extensive collaborative effort which aims to break silos between the technology and health care sectors.
The report identifies three key observations:
- the critical importance of senior-level government leadership with committed financing
- effective governance mechanisms, and
- a national information and communication technology framework which includes connectivity, interoperability, and common standards.
Digital health, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to provide health services, has the potential to advance the goal of universal health coverage and improve the quality and efficiency of health services. Key challenges remain in making digital health a reality, including fragmentation in digital health solutions, risks to funding continuity and capital expenditure, workforce capacity constraints, and effective collaboration across the health and ICT sectors. “Despite the promise and potential of global connectivity, we cannot lose sight of the fact that nearly four billion people have no access to the Internet. We need to look at innovative cross-sectoral strategies that can leverage the power of high speed networks to improve education, healthcare and the delivery of basic social services to everyone, especially the poorest people, who need healthcare most urgently. Without significant improvements in people’s health, and equally, without information and communications technologies, we cannot achieve the SDGs.” said ITU Secretary General, Houlin Zhao.
Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation, emphasizes, “With digital health solutions, we must address the priority health needs of a country. To do this, we need continuous committed leadership from government with sustained financial resources to ensure a strong national digital health strategy. A growing number of technology-based health initiatives have taken shape in recent years. Only a few of those have reached scale and achieved long-term sustainability – the majority of projects have not made it past the pilot phase. That is why sustained leadership of policy makers and intragovernmental collaboration must guide the progress of designing and implementing a national digital health strategy, beginning at the planning stage.”
Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia, adds, “Technology is helping us move to a more human-centric approach to health care. It gives us an enhanced, sophisticated, detailed capability to track even the smallest changes in our health, allowing us to trace trends in heart rate, blood pressure, or blood sugar. Today we are capable to push the frontiers of health care by using technology to reach the remotest of locations, harnessing the power of mobile devices to help health professionals bring the most efficient medical techniques and highest quality of care to every community. But the true power of technology is felt when people are empowered to protect and preserve their own health.”
The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 and comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors. They are committed to actively supporting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of ICT to drive national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) strategies in key areas like education, healthcare, gender equality and environmental management.
ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technologies, driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 700 private sector entities and academic institutions. Established over 150 years ago in 1865, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. www.itu.int